The Importance of Play
4th February 2020

Today a young girl was determined to make a circuit that launched a fan blade into the air. No one had told her to. She built a circuit with four AA batteries and a motor. The fan spun but there was no lift off.

By trial and error, she figured out that by connecting the fan so that the motor spun in the opposite direction she could be successful in her goal. As she connected the circuit with her corrections and flicked the switch the fan blade ascended at tremendous speed, only millimetres from brushing the ceiling.

Curiosity is a powerful motivator and playing is the means to fulfil that curiosity. I firmly believe that generating curiosity around the science we do is crucial. Once we do that the visitors to Aberdeen Science Centre, regardless of age, will be playing, testing, asking questions and leave having learned about something they may not have known they were curious about.

I can show the visitors something they may not have seen before and hopefully I can spark that curiosity in them. If showing them doesn’t work on its own, then asking questions and suggesting what they could do is the next step.

As soon as I can see that they’ve started thinking, imagining and trying, that’s where the exciting bit happens. They’ll think something along the lines of “OK so this can do X and Y, so what will happen if I do Z?” then they see what happens if they do Z. I’ve helped them get to the start of that process, but from then on, it’s entirely them. That’s what learning can be.Satisfying your curiosity in whatever form it takes.  You can’t do this with a textbook, a picture or a video. That’s what makes playing so important.

“Play is the highest form of research” - Albert Einstein

Show me, don’t tell me is the best way to teach science. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an entire show is worth a thousand pictures.

We generally start by introducing the show and what it’s about, we then ask what they know, and try to get an idea of how familiar they are with the subject. Once we know that, we can start investigating.

We may pose a challenge on how we are going to do something or how something happens. By encouraging our audience to offer suggestions we are getting them to become more invested in the solution.

After collecting some suggestions, we can try them out. By trying out the ideas we can explore the reasons why they were right or wrong. If we only tried out the correct way and turned down every suggestion that we weren’t expecting there wouldn’t be nearly as many opportunities to learn, after all just because someone offers an answer we weren’t expecting doesn’t mean they are wrong, and being wrong isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re able to accept that you’re wrong and learn from it.

The discussion that comes with the demonstration is just as important as the demonstration itself. Once we have finished the demonstration,we do our best to link the science to a comparable example in everyday life to give relevancy to what we do. For example, we have a demonstration in one of our space shows that links to fidget spinners and spinning tops.

In our chemistry show we discuss wasp and bee stings, and one of our magnet demonstrations can be used to explain how lifts can be made safe.

If we can convince our audience that science is a major part of their lives and that it’s something they can do, then we will have been very successful in what we set out to do.

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